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For Rodney Alcala victims' families, a life sentence

As the killer of Robin Samsoe, 12, and four women gets the death penalty a third time, relatives of those whose lives he took recount their losses, describe their ongoing pain.

March 31, 2010|By Paloma Esquivel
  • Marianne Connelly, center, mother of 12-year-old murder victim Robin Samsoe, visits her daughter's grave at Good Shepherd Cemetery in Huntington Beach after the sentencing of killer Rodney Acala. She is flanked by attorney Gloria Allred, left, and daughter-in-law Teresa Samsoe.
Marianne Connelly, center, mother of 12-year-old murder victim Robin… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Before Rodney James Alcala was led away by sheriff's deputies Tuesday, having been sentenced to death for the third time, the friends and families of his victims addressed the defendant and the court.

Much has been written about the brief life and brutal death of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe over the three decades during which Alcala, now 66, was tried and retried for kidnapping and murdering the young ballet dancer.

Less is known about the other victims, whose names during Alcala's latest trial were often listed briefly, in order of the date of their deaths: Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Parenteau. Before the third trial began in January, Alcala had been linked through DNA, blood and fingerprint evidence to their deaths.

On Tuesday, in a Santa Ana courtroom before Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno, the story of each victim's life and death came into sharp relief as, one by one, their loved ones took to a lectern and spoke, at times directing their words at the former photographer and onetime "Dating Game" contestant who had been convicted of their murders.

In the summer of 1979, Jill Parenteau was 21 and ecstatic about moving out on her own. She had long brown hair and a big smile, and was smart and funny, but she could also be shy and reserved with those who didn't know her well, said her childhood friend Katherine Franco. Parenteau and her friends "did classic girlfriend things," Franco said -- they shared recipes and shopped and imagined where life would take them.

One night that summer, Parenteau and Franco visited the Handlebar Saloon, a Pasadena watering hole frequented by Alcala. They briefly met the curly-haired man, but he made little impression and the two friends didn't give him much thought, Franco said.

On June 13, 1979, Parenteau's naked body was found inside her apartment. Alcala had raped and strangled her.

"I'll never forget what it was like to see my mother, who always held her emotions in control, sob uncontrollably over losing her youngest daughter," Jill's sister, Deidreann Parenteau, told the court.

Rodney Alcala, she said, "is truly a devil who does not belong on this earth."

Georgia Wixted was the middle of three children raised by a widowed mother. While their mother worked to provide for the family, Georgia and her brother, Michael, cared for their younger sister, Anne. As a teenager, Georgia was hospitalized twice for surgery to remove tumors. The attention and care she received during those stays made her determined to become a nurse.

On Dec. 16, 1977, her naked body was found inside her Malibu apartment. Alcala had raped, strangled and beaten her with a hammer. She was 27.

"No one should have to die the way my sister did," Anne Michelena said. "No one should have to suffer that way."

Charlotte Lamb was the fourth in a family of eight children born to tenant farmers in Ohio. She had long blond hair, and everyone called her "Shug," her sister Celia Adkins said during the trial. She painted and sang and sometimes made her own skirts and dresses. After high school she headed to Los Angeles with a boyfriend.

On Charlotte's 32nd birthday, Celia called her sister. She called again and again throughout the day and got no answer.

She did not know that two days earlier -- on June 24, 1978 -- Charlotte's naked body had been found in the laundry room of an apartment complex in El Segundo. She had been raped and strangled. Her family did not learn of her death until weeks later.

On Tuesday, Robert Samsoe, brother of victim Robin, read a statement from Adkins, who was unable to return for the sentencing.

"The giant hole created when Shug was taken from us will never be filled," Adkins wrote, "but we do have memories of a sister who graced our lives with decency and beauty for a while."

Jill Barcomb was born to a Catholic family in Oneida, N.Y., a small, quiet town just outside Syracuse. Of 10 brothers and sisters, Jill was No. 5.

She was kind, with long brown hair and a big smile, her brother Bruce Barcomb said. When Bruce was 3, he told the court, he was punished for spitting spinach out at the dinner table and made to stand by the refrigerator. Jill, then 4, stood by his side, her arm around him, until the punishment was over. As a teen she sang and played trumpet, and loved roller-skating and playing at being a disc jockey.

She was a carefree spirit who left New York for California at 18. She had been here only weeks when her body was found in the Hollywood Hills in November 1977. Alcala had used a rock to smash her face and strangled her with the leg from a pair of pants.

Eight months after she was buried, Bruce Barcomb visited his sister's grave in New York. "I spoke out loud, with my voice cracking and tears beginning to stream down my cheeks in the hot and humid sun," he recalled. " 'I don't know what to do,' " he said. " 'I miss you.' "

Alcala, who sat motionless, his hands clasped in front of him while family and friends of his victims spoke, declined to make a statement at the end of the proceedings.

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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